• The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 1: Takeaways
• The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 1: The Response from the Right
• Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate Arrested
• Zinke Survives
• Lawton Tries to Salvage His Career
• This Week in Schadenfreude
Prior to the commencement of 2 weeks' worth of televised hearings, the members of the 1/6 Committee promised that they were going to knock viewers' socks off. Last night's presentation lasted a little over 90 minutes and, remarkably, it lived up to the hype. One of the two in-person witnesses, police officer Caroline Edwards, was asked to describe the scene at the Capitol on January 6. "It was carnage," she said. She could just as easily have been describing the scene at the Capitol on June 9, as last night's broadcast was an absolute body blow to Donald Trump and his enablers.
If you haven't seen the hearing already, and are interested in watching it for yourself,
is the NBC feed:
If you are just wanting to see the highlights, ABC News has edited together a 5-minute package you can take a look at.
In any event, here are the 10 storylines that stood out most to us. Note that we deliberately shut off the post-hearing commentary, and did not look at any Internet sites before writing this, so as to avoid any external influences on our thinking:
- It Takes Two: Only two members of the 1/6 Committee spoke last night. The first was Chair
Bennie Thompson (D-MS), whose task was to explain the purpose of the Committee. He drew comparisons to the War of 1812
and, more substantively, to the Civil War, framing the 1/6 insurrection as an assault on democracy commensurate with the
two nineteenth-century wars, and proposing that those who pooh-pooh the events of 1/6 as "a dustup" or "tourists getting
a little rowdy" are no different from those who downplay the significance of racism and slavery to the Civil War.
Thompson also emphasized that the hearings are not about partisan score-settling, observing that the people on the dais
(i.e., the Committee) represent many different demographics and both of the major parties, and that the only commonality
between Committee members is their commitment to upholding the oath they took to defend the Constitution.
The other speaker, of course, was Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY). Her task was to provide an overview of what the committee plans to prove over the course of the hearings, namely that Donald Trump and his administration knew full well they had lost the election, and that the President and assorted sycophants knowingly and deliberately resorted to extralegal measures to try to keep him in power.
- Right to the Point: As we noted yesterday, a hearing like this is no time to keep people
in suspense. It's essential to lay out your thesis at the very beginning, so the viewer/listener can evaluate how
effectively the evidence supports that thesis. Thompson and Cheney are no dummies, and so they made very sure to cut to
the chase pronto. Just over a minute into Thompson's opening remarks, he declared:
Donald Trump had his days in court to challenge the results. He was within his rights to seek those judgments. In the United States, law-abiding citizens have those tools for pursuing justice. He lost in the courts, just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country, that's the end of the line.As we note above, Cheney also focused much attention on the former president in her opening remarks. For example:
But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the Presidential election... aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans—your votes—your voice in our democracy—and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended.
Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy.
On this point, there is no room for debate. Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: That the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful president. President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.Again, there's no question as to what the main argument of the 1/6 Committee is. Are you listening, AG Merrick Garland?
All Americans should keep in mind this fact: On the morning of Jan. 6, President Donald Trump's intention was to remain president of the United States."
- Trump's Culpability—The Insiders: Thompson and Cheney did not expect you to take
their word for it that Trump knew he lost the election, and that he decided to resort to desperate measures to retain
power. Presumably aided by former ABC News producer James Goldston, who is working for the Committee, there were clips
a-plenty featuring Trump insiders saying incriminating things about the former president, particularly that he knew full
well that he'd lost the election and that he knew his words would rouse his followers to action on Jan. 6. The first
clip was of former AG Bill Barr. So, if you had him in your pool, you're a winner. Here's what he said in the clip that
I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I call the bullshit. And, you know, I didn't want to be a part of it. ... We can't live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that the election that there was fraud in the election.We left the eight-letter word intact because if it cleared the bar to be broadcast uncensored on every single network, then it clears the bar to be uncensored here. Barr has been in cover-your-a** mode for the last year or so, which might argue for taking his words with a grain of salt, but his testimony seemed genuine. And he was followed, over the course of the evening, by a veritable hit parade of key members of the Trump White House: Gen. Mark Milley, Jason Miller, Ivanka Trump, legal counsel Alex Cannon, etc. Undoubtedly, Trump and his allies in the media will try to claim "fake news," but that's a bit tough when the video of these people is there for all to see.
I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time, and was doing grave, grave disservice to the country.
- Trump's Culpability—The Rioters: Trump White House insiders are best positioned to
confirm that #45 knew he lost the election. However, it's the rioters who are best positioned to confirm that they were
acting based on his encouragement. And although no rioters testified last night (that's apparently coming), the video
shown managed to make the case for Trump's influence quite nicely. There were numerous, often frightening, clips in
which angry rioters were parroting the former president. Particularly compelling was the portion where a
presidential anti-Mike Pence tweet was juxtaposed with a foaming-at-the-mouth, bullhorn-equipped rioter, who was
repeating the tweet word-for-word. You can see that portion of the hearing
if you wish.
That was followed by footage of the crowd chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and "Fuck Nancy!" Watching the video, much of which was not previously publicly available, there is absolutely no doubt that if Pence or Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had somehow encountered the crowd, they would be dead right now.
- The Greatest American Hero: As long as we're on the subject, if there is anyone who came
off well last night (besides the Capitol Police), it is the former vice president. Mike Pence's name must have been
mentioned a dozen times by Thompson and Cheney, always making the point that he was under enormous pressure to brush
aside the Constitution and he refused to do so. It makes it rather harder to slur the hearings as a partisan witch hunt
when an ultra-conservative Republican is doing half the talking, and the hero of the day is a different
ultra-conservative Republican. That's not to say that Trump and his acolytes won't say it's a partisan witch hunt,
because they will, but at a certain point the RINO stuff becomes a bit hard to peddle.
- A Tale of Two Minority Leaders: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a bit too
Machiavellian for the tastes of anyone who is not, well... Niccolò Machiavelli, but there's no question that the
Kentuckian is a shrewd political operator. On the other hand, we have rarely been impressed with the political skills of
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who seems to spend most of his time greasing whatever wheel in his caucus
is the squeakiest rather than, you know, calling the shots.
It could not have been clearer last night how badly McCarthy played his hand here, as he had the opportunity to place people on the 1/6 Committee and chose instead to grandstand by putting two "stop the stealers" on the committee (Jim Banks, R-IN and Jim Jordan, R-OH) and then yanking all five of his picks when Nancy Pelosi vetoed those two. Inasmuch as there are no McCarthyites on the committee, there was nobody to warn him, or anyone else in the Republican Party, what was coming last night. So, the Trumpers were blindsided. Perhaps more importantly, the hearing may seem like a court case, since there is testimony, and evidence, and an argument being made. However, in a court case, the defendant gets to tell their side of the story. Not so in a congressional hearing; the only possible option for the Trump faction would be objections or other sorts of muddying the water. But since there are no people on the committee who are even vaguely Trumpy, it was possible for Thompson & Co. to tell their story uninterrupted, and exactly as they wanted to tell it.
- If You Don't Tell Your Story, Someone Else Will Tell It For You: In a related point, there
are many potential witnesses who refused to testify. If this was a court hearing, and if they had shown up to plead the
Fifth, then it would not be OK to infer their guilt. But, as we note, this was not a court hearing. And many of these
folks did not show up, and so could not possibly have pleaded the Fifth. That left the committee to present its own
interpretation of what is going on, here. For example, Cheney pointed out that Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) rejected a
subpoena from the Committee. She also pointed out that he sought a presidential pardon for his activities on January 6.
Taken together, it doesn't exactly paint a picture of someone who is as pure as the driven snow.
- Well-Chosen Witnesses: There were only two in-person witnesses last night, and they were
shrewd picks, as they balanced each other well, and they're both pretty unimpeachable. Caroline Edwards was, as noted,
one of the police offers tasked with trying to control the crowd (and was badly injured in the process). She described
the horrors of the day in detail, such that some of the other officers in the gallery were in tears (as was Cheney). She also noted how
the crowd tried to undermine and denigrate her as "Nancy Pelosi's dog," "incompetent," and various slurs for members of
the female gender.
Meanwhile, if Edwards was "emotion," then filmmaker Nick Quested was "reason." He was embedded with the Proud Boys for purposes of making a documentary, and provided much detail, but in subdued fashion, as if he really didn't want to be there. He also flatly refused to testify to things he did not know for a certainty; for example, he captured footage of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes meeting the night before the insurrection, but was unable and unwilling to confirm the obvious supposition, namely that they were conspiring together. Anyhow, any trial lawyer will tell you that you don't want witnesses who are too enthusiastic, as that undermines their credibility. This was definitely not a problem with Quested, whose air of detachment was presumably due to his not being American (he's British) and to having cultivated a "neutral" approach in his filmmaking career (he's made films on several other violent and/or radical movements).
Any witness can be picked apart, of course. But anyone who would do so is going to have an extra tall order with a cop who was on the front lines risking her life and a Brit who was just calling balls and strikes.
- Meme-worthy: One of the keys to teaching, particularly in the 21st century, is that you
have to change gears a lot. If you just lecture, lecture, lecture for 90 minutes without asking the students to answer a
few questions, or showing a video clip, or playing a song, or making a joke, or something, then all the students
will eventually tune out. It would seem the same thing applies to primetime congressional hearings. Presumably
reflecting the influence of James Goldston, once again, last night's presentation not only included a 10-minute
intermission, it was also carefully organized to... well, change gears a lot. We mean talking, then clip, then talking,
then tweet, then talking, then clip, then talking, then audio, and so forth. Our guess is that even Donald Trump was
able to keep up his attention through the whole thing. Of course, it helps that they were talking about him.
- To Be Continued...: Although the hearing was hard-hitting on some subjects, most obviously the connection between Trump's words and the mob's actions, there were other subjects left almost completely untouched. For example, there was no attention paid to the former president's actions (or inactions) during the first several hours of the riot, when he was apparently sitting on his hands, or twiddling his thumbs, or maybe channeling his inner Nero and playing the fiddle. Undoubtedly, this subject, and others, will get their turn under the microscope in future hearings (episodes?). And note that we're not just guessing that is the case; Cheney said as much during her opening remarks. (She also suggested there would be some things that would not become public until the Committee releases its final report.)
So, that's how we saw it. And now that this is complete, we'll go and take a look to find out how others saw it. (Z)
The first night of primetime hearings is a big story, and one that concluded early enough that the takeaways pieces are already online. Here's how some of the nation's biggest outlets had it (let's see if they agree with our take):
The Guardian (UK):
- Attack on January 6 was the 'culmination of an attempted coup'
- Trump's own team contested election lies
- A gut-wrenching review of a violent day
- Work of undermining election continued as violence ensued
- Committee presents case that attack was premeditated
The Washington Post (Jennifer Rubin):
- Visceral footage revives January 6 horrors
- Trump didn't want the riot to stop
- Proud Boys and Oath Keepers take center stage
- Capitol Police officer's gripping testimony
- Trump's team and family turn against him
- Staffers fled top GOP Rep. McCarthy's office, but GOP turned back to Trump
- Pence called for help—not Trump
The Washington Post (Amber Phillips):
- The seriousness of the insurrection
- There was an overarching plot
- The evidence of Trump's 'corrupt' intent
- The shocking violence on Jan. 6
- The cooperation of so many Republicans
- Government at its best
- The committee holds Trump responsible for the attack
- How the committee plans to tell its story
- A sharp attack on Trump's Republican defenders
- How Trump influenced the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys
- The production value of night one
- The committee says more is to come
The New York Times:
- Committee places Trump at center of 'attempted coup'
- Key players offer first-hand insight into Trump's thinking
- Witness testimony claims Trump expressed Pence 'deserves' hanging
- Capitol Police officer recounts disbelief as 'war scene' unfolded
- Teasing what's to come
- Trump was at the center of the plot
- Key figures around Trump never believed his lie of a stolen election
- A Capitol Police officer who battled the rioters humanized the drama
- The Proud Boys mounted an organized effort
- There is more to come on Trump's role
- As rioters stormed the Capitol, Trump was fixated on politics
- The committee painted Pence as an unlikely hero
- Trump's appointees worried he was unfit to govern, threatened to quit
- Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner suggested the White House counsel's staff were crybabies
- Future hearings will reveal other parts of Trump's plan to stay in power
- Trump was told that Biden won fair and square
- Trump explicitly condoned the Capitol attack as it was taking place
- Trump said Mike Pence "deserved" to be hanged, committee says
- Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump, and Mark Meadows all knew the Big Lie was bullshit
- Republican lawmakers sought pardons for trying to overturn the election
- The Proud Boys cased the Capitol on the morning of the insurrection
It would seem that we were indeed watching the same hearings as everyone else. The recurring themes here are: (1) Trump is under a large and very unfriendly microscope, (2) he's being hurt by testimony from some of the innerest of his inner circle, (3) the video footage was devastating, (4) Caroline Edwards was very compelling, and (5) there's much more to come. (Z)
Now let's turn our attention to the politicians and media outlets on Donald Trump's side of the aisle. As we note above, they're going to do everything they can to undermine the 1/6 Committee in general, and last night's hearing in particular. It won't be easy, since Thompson, Cheney and Co. did a crackerjack job.
As it turns out, there are really only two responses thus far. The first is the most obvious one, namely questioning the legitimacy of the entire endeavor. Leading members of the Grand Old Party got started on this early, well before the hearing actually started yesterday. There was a prebuttal press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday featuring a motley crew of the truly Trumpy members of the House and those who are merely pretending in order to advance their political careers. Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY), who is in the latter group by all indications, said this:
This further solidifies what we know, what we have known from day one. This committee is not about seeking the truth, it is a smear campaign against President Donald Trump, against Republican members of Congress and against Trump voters across this country. This committee is unconstitutional, it is illegitimate. It was not put together according to the rules of the House. It does not serve any true legislative or oversight purpose and it is not about finding out why Nancy Pelosi left the Capitol so ill-prepared that day.
Other members observed that the Democrats are trying to obscure the real story of 1/6 (Jim Jordan), or that the committee is doctoring the evidence (Kevin McCarthy), or that Nancy Pelosi should stop wasting time on nonsense and should instead be focused on the nation's fentanyl crisis (Steve Scalise, LA).
The Republicans' friends on Fox were happy to carry on this line of thinking while the hearings were underway. Tucker Carlson described the events of 1/6 as a "minor outbreak" of mob violence, and that continued focus on the incident is "insulting" and "deranged" and declared that "[W]e're not playing along. This is the only hour on an American news channel that will not be carrying their propaganda live." Hannity's first guest, the mediocre sportswriter Jason Whitlock, concurred that "There was a riot, a small one, that got a little bit out of hand." Sean Hannity, on his program, dismissed the hearing as "another anti-Trump smear that will accomplish nothing," while Laura Ingraham, on hers, characterized it as "the lastest Leftist primetime flop."
Fox's website, meanwhile, highlighted the other response from the right. See if you can figure out what that response was; here's a screen capture of the site at around 01:30 a.m. PT:
So, the big news of the day would appear to be Joe Biden selling out Israel, Nancy Pelosi's husband's week-old DUI arrest, the Democrats' culpability in Brett Kavanaugh's life being (nominally) threatened, the downfall of San Francisco's DA, and the Britney Spears wedding crasher. So that's four "bad stuff 'bout the Democrats" stories and some celebrity gossip. Apparently, nothing bad happened to any Republican yesterday, at least according to Fox (What) News.
There, then, are the two responses thus far: (1) attack the hearing's legitimacy and (2) pretend there was no hearing. Here's how other right-wing outlets handled things last night:
- Breitbart headlined the hearing as "Resistance Theater" and accused Democrats of "Wag[ging] the
Dog as Americans Suffer."
- The Daily Wire ignored the hearing in favor of lead items about how the Democrats are the
"Party of Crime," how it's up to Republicans to be "Guerrilla Fighters" in the culture wars, about a Colorado school that
had "drag queen story hour" (whatever that is), and about Britney Spears' wedding crasher. Who knew the ins and outs of
Britney's life were of such interest to those on the right?
- WND gave its 1A slot over to a story about how Hunter Biden is Joe Biden's "closest adviser."
- RedState.com gave its 1A slot to a story about how a Christian University (Emory) has an exhibit
of art that suggests Jesus was gay.
- Newsmax had a "fact check" rebutting the "lies" of the 1/6 Committee; a story about Alan Dershowitz, whose turn to the Dark Side is complete, and who described the Committee as "a kangaroo court" and advised readers to "ignore it all"; and a story about Aaron Babbitt, the estranged widower of dead rioter Ashli Babbitt, who described the hearing as "complete BS from the left."
This is still an ongoing story, of course, since there will undoubtedly be additional responses from the right on Friday. In particular, we do not know what Donald Trump has said yet, if anything. There is much we are willing to do to put together a good site, but signing up for a TRUTH Social account is not one of those things. We are pretty sure though that some intrepid reporter for Politico, The New York Times, or The Washington Post, will do so and report on what he or she saw there. (Z)
This will be our last 1/6-related item of the day; we promise. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is running for reelection this year and, at this point, she might just end up unopposed in the general election. Five of the Republicans who hoped to challenge her were disqualified for submitting phony signatures, leaving just five Republicans standing. And now one of those, Ryan D. Kelley, has been arrested on charges related to participation the 1/6 insurrection.
Kelley faces four counts, most significantly disorderly conduct and willfully injuring or attacking U.S. property. Normally, that would be enough to end a political campaign. But we can find nothing in Michigan law that renders him ineligible. And the kind of voters Kelley is trying to attract may see his "martyrdom" as a feature, and not a bug. So, maybe he'll drop out in order to focus on his defense. But maybe this will propel him to the top of the polls. Who knows? The primary is August 2. (Z)
At the end of the evening on Tuesday, former representative and Trump cabinet officer Ryan Zinke had a thin lead in the voting to be the Republican nominee in MT-01. Now, enough ballots have been counted that Zinke has been declared the winner. With more than 95% reporting, Zinke has 41.7% of the vote as compared to 39.8% for nearest competitor Al Olszewski.
As with Ryan Kelley (see above), there was a time when a politician as damaged as Zinke is would be unelectable. Recall that Albert Fall, who served as Secretary of the Interior under Warren Harding, did the exact same thing Zinke did, namely steering federal oil rights to his friends in exchange for financial considerations. In Fall's case, he was disgraced, spent time in prison, and died in poverty. Zinke, by contrast, kept his job. He was only forced to resign after a different scandal, in which he was found to be faking his public calendar to hide meetings with the officials he was supposed to be regulating.
MT-01, despite its numbering, is the new district created because the state picked up a second CD in this year's round of redistricting. And while it is red, it's not nearly as red as MT-02, which is why incumbent representative Matthew Rosendale (R) chose to run in MT-02. Roughly speaking, Zinke's would-be district is R+7. He'll be up against Democrat Monica Tranel, who won nomination easily and, in fact, collected more votes on Tuesday than he did (36,829 to 35,241). If she turns out to be a strong candidate, and Montanans decide they are offended by Zinke's crookedness, it's at least possible the Democrats could find themselves with a surprise pickup in Big Sky country. (Z)
Rep. Al Lawton (D-FL) is about to lose his majority-black district (FL-05) due to Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) gerrymandering machinations. It is possible that, over the next 2 years, the courts will overrule the Governor, but it's not likely that will happen in time for this cycle. So, if Lawton wants to continue his career uninterrupted, he's gotta find a new district, at least for now. On Thursday, he made his choice: FL-02.
FL-02 is quite red; under the old map it was R+20 and under the new one it's about R+14. Given its leaning, it's represented by a fire-breathing Trumper in Neal Dunn (R). Lawton will run a centrist campaign, emphasizing his ability to bring home the bacon, and hammering Dunn for opposing infrastructure funds and COVID relief. Stranger things have happened, but you can't like Lawton's chances. (Z)
Have we already directed too much snark in the direction of Fox today? Actually, that's a trick question. There's no such thing as too much snark when it comes to Fox. So, for this week's schadenfreude item, we're going to use something brought to our attention by reader J.L. in Los Angeles. June is Pride month, of course, and Fox got in on the festivities, cutting a promo in honor of the occasion. It is an understated and not especially enthusiastic promo, but a promo nonetheless.
This got in the craw of the folks at Media Matters, who observed the disconnect between the channel's promo and its actual coverage of LGBTQ+ issues. That coverage isn't so much "prideful" as it is... homophobic, transphobic, etc. So, Media Matters put together a clip where actual Fox coverage of LGBTQ+ issues is inserted into the promo:
Fox News' actual promo for Pride Month vs. Fox News programming pic.twitter.com/kOIPzNhsSC— Media Matters (@mmfa) June 3, 2022
We don't approve of demonizing any group who lives below the 49th parallel, and so we don't approve of the frequent scapegoating done by the Tucker Carlsons and Sean Hannitys of the world. But turning around and making a promo that presents an alternative kumbaya reality? Well, now we've added hypocrisy on top of everything else. So, there's certainly some schadenfreude when Media Matters calls Fox out on their two-facedness.
One other note: CMT (formerly Country Music Television) has colored its logo rainbow for the month. If even CMT and Fox, both of which attract right-leaning viewerships, feel they have to tip the cap (or the cowboy hat) to Pride, it suggests that Ron DeSantis' position is a minority position, and that polls reporting that 60% or 70% or 80% of Floridians support the "Don't Say Gay" bill are a bunch of cr*p. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun09 What Should the Select Committee Do?
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